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  Quality Considerations

Equally beautiful, and perhaps more unique, are engagement rings with colored gemstones as a focus.

While diamonds are the most common gemstone found in engagement rings, colored gemstones are a magnificent option as well. Ruby and sapphire, both varieties of the corundum family, are often selected for engagement rings. If not used as focal gems, they are often set as side stones to contrast a diamond's colorless nature. Jade is another popular gem material because of its rarity, fine color, and excellent durability. There are many additional colored stone options that make beautiful engagement rings- such as tanzanite, yellow and pink sapphires, emeralds, and even pearls.

Durability issues come into play when choosing any gemstone- diamond or colored stone- for jewelry. Rings receive harder 'wear' than other pieces of jewelry as they face more daily movement. All colors of corundum, including ruby, sapphire, yellow sapphire, pink sapphire, and green and orange sapphire, are excellent choices for engagement rings due to overall durability. They are both hard and tough. Jade is extremely tough. Softer gems and even pearls can make excellent engagement rings if treated with great care. They could not be worn every day for a lifetime. Ideally, all rings should be removed during housework, gardening, physical exercise, and even showers where the extremes of chemicals and temperature come into play.


The 4 Cs of Colored Stones


While the 4 C's refer directly to the grading system for diamonds, similar issues concern the assessment of quality in colored stones. Colored stones are generally not graded under a standardized process with lab certification, but the concepts of the 4 C's provide a rough guide of what to look for when choosing a colored gemstone.

GIA has attempted to standardize the colored gemstone grading process by developing a lingo for referring to color, deciding clarity, and assessing cut in colored gemstones. While this system is not widespread within the gem trade, the structure is useful for reviewing colored gemstones and their quality.

For colored stones, color is the single most important grading factor. Hue, or color shade, and saturation are critical. 'Intense,' 'vivid,' and 'deep' are a few words that might be considered when looking at gem color. While the 'best' shade of color is somewhat subjective, hue, saturation, brightness, and purity of color are factors to consider when viewing a gemstone's color.

Clarity grading differs for colored stones. While diamond clarity is determined by exact grading procedures including 10 times magnification, for colored stones, clarity assessment is generally completed with the human eye. Clarity refers to the relative lack of presence of internal inclusions or surface blemishes. Some colored stones, such as emerald, always have some eye visible inclusions, or flaws, and are accepted for these unique marks of their formation. This is the nature of emerald and the environment where it formed in the earth. Others, such as aquamarine, should always be relatively flaw-free. Each gem variety should be accessed based on its own 'ideal' level of clarity. In addition, some people prefer visually 'flawless' gems. Others prefer appreciate some evidence of natural growth and wispy inclusions in their gemstones.

Carat Weight
Most colored stones are generally found in larger sizes than diamonds. Generally, like diamonds, the larger or heavier the stone, the higher the price.

Shape is an important factor with any gemstone, and there are more shape variations to colored stones than diamonds. In terms of cut, a well-cut stone is always preferable. Cut is not strictly graded as with diamonds. A visual assessment of the way the stone sparkles and how well polished the facets are is usually all that is required. Unusual cuts are more available with colored stones and their shape appeal is generally subjective.

To a large degree, beauty is a subjective term. However, when viewing colored gemstones, I tend to look at the range of different 'grading' factors to see how the factors combine into a gemstone's overall appearance. In my exerience, with a nice gemstone, the eye is engaged and the desire for 'possession' increases.


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